Asthma is a serious breathing condition caused by inflammation in the airways that lead to the lungs. It affects up to 20 million Americans. Nocturnal, or night-time asthma refers to the condition that gets worse during the hours of sleep, typically between 2am and 4am.
While the exact mechanisms of nocturnal asthma are not fully understood, the condition has been documented in medical literature for years, giving doctors and patients ample time to come up with counter-measures. Here’s a list of steps you can take to cut your risk of a nighttime asthma attack and ensure a good nights’ sleep.
Do your detective work.
In order to crack the code of their nighttime asthma, many patients find it useful to keep a nightly asthma journal detailing their symptoms, peak flow readings, and medications.
It’s also important to jot down any allergy/asthma triggers encountered during the day (including weather), as this information may help you and your doctor work out patterns that may pertain to your condition.
Because nighttime asthma frequently presents itself in association with seemingly unrelated symptoms, such as acid reflux (which affects 75% of asthma patients) or post-nasal drip, you should make sure to note any non-respiratory symptoms, too.
Keep your room clean.
Perhaps no asthma trigger is more prevalent than dust mites. These microscopic critters feed on the trillions of dead skin cells you slough off daily, and produce waste products that can frequently stir up symptoms.
You can’t get rid of them entirely, but you can greatly reduce their numbers by taking some simple measures: washing bedding and blankets once a week in hot water, encasing your bedding in dust-proof covers, and using a de-humidifier to keep relative humidity at about 50% or below, just to name a few.
Let sleeping dogs lie…outside.
We all love our pets, but their dander? Not so much. Pet dander is similar to dandruff – tiny, often microscopic flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs and other pets. Exposure to pet dander can worsen allergy symptoms, or worse, trigger an asthma attack – definitely not something you want happening while you’re trying to catch some Z’s. Close bedroom doors, and run air filters to ensure that dander doesn’t flow freely throughout the house.
Sleep on your side.
When you sleep on your back, you’re more likely to snore and experience nasal drip – factors that are both linked with asthma. Additionally, experts say, lying on your back is associated with increased airway resistance and decreased lung volume: in other words, it’s harder to breathe! If you can, try to sleep on your side – it keeps the airways open, while cutting down on over-breathing.
Get the right medicine.
One of the most useful steps in warding off a nighttime asthma attack is to use an extended-release bronchodilator – a kind of medicine that’s administered by inhaler, and that works slowly and continuously to keep your airways relaxed. If you and your doctor determine that you’re more prone to asthma at night, this may be your option.
Don’t let nocturnal asthma get you down! Track your symptoms carefully, keep your home clean and dust-free, and keep in close contact with your doctor. Working as a team, you’ll be able to pinpoint the cause of your insomnia-spurning ailments and get the good nights’ sleep you so rightfully deserve.
About the Author Zoe Camp is an avid blogger for http://justnebulizers.com/ and a student at Columbia University who spends her time researching and writing about health care, specifically pulmonary health issues.